Cubs

Blackhawks trade Patrick Sharp to Dallas Stars

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Blackhawks trade Patrick Sharp to Dallas Stars

Patrick Sharp was an integral part of the Blackhawks, a player the team acquired when it was still trying to find its new identity and years before it found its constant success.

Now he’s part of their glorious recent past.

The Blackhawks traded Sharp and defenseman Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt. The move clears some cap space for the Blackhawks, who now have about $70.4 million committed to 21 players. Sharp has two years remaining on his contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.9 million per season. Johns is in the final year of a deal paying him $800,000. The Blackhawks take Daley’s contract (two more years at a cap hit of $3.3 million a season) and half of Garbutt’s ($900,000 cap hit each of the next two years). 

But this isn’t just what the Blackhawks lost money-wise with Sharp. While it’s no surprise he was dealt, Sharp and his contributions that led to three Stanley Cups in the past six seasons will be missed. His past season wasn’t his best — 16 goals and 27 assists in 68 games — but he’s nevertheless had a lot of great individual seasons. He recorded 34 goals in 2010-11 and 2013-14 (two goals shy of his career best 36 set in the 2007-08 season).

[MORE: Trevor van Riemsdyk signs two-year extension with Blackhawks]

General manager Stan Bowman had been working for some time to get a deal done.

“It’s difficult trying to find a trading partner. You have a need they have and a player they like and they have the cap space to do what you’re trying to do,” Bowman said. “There have been countless phone calls over the past three weeks, this one finally made sense.”

Bowman said he talked to Sharp on Friday.

“More so than anything, [I] just thanked him for everything he’s done of the organization over the years,” Bowman said via conference call. “We’ve been through a lot together. He came when our team wasn’t at the level it was at in recent years and he played a big part in getting us to that next level. It was a great ride alongside Patrick and I wished him well.”

Bowman was also not concerned about trading assets to the Stars, who are in the same division.

“It cuts both ways,” Bowman said. “Dallas is giving us two of theirs to play against their team. I don’t know if that’s something you can pay too much attention to. You have to do what’s best for your team and not be as fixated on what they’re doing. Does this make sense for your team?”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Stanley Cup Champs gear!]

A message left with Sharp on Friday night was not immediately returned. Two days after winning the Cup, Sharp talked of his trying year, on and off the ice, and how the Blackhawks banded together to win again.

“I blocked out a lot of things out this year,” Sharp said on June 17. “I thought it was pretty unfair to hear some of the stuff I was hearing about myself and my teammates but that’s the kind of group we have: we stuck together and got it done.

“To win a third Stanley Cup in this city is something that I’ll always remember,” Sharp continued. “It’s pretty special. It’s a huge accomplishment.”

 

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

Ozzie Guillen and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on Wednesday's podcast. After Tuesday's game-winning hit and second self-inflicted Gatorade bath the guys wonder if anyone has more fun on the field than Yolmer Sanchez. Jim DeShaies joins the conversation and brings Javy Baez to the table.

Plus, Manny Mania continues to swirl in Chicago. Finally, what should be the White Sox plan for calling up their top prospects?

Listen to the full Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast right here: